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Scouting in the New Age: Technology Tips from Location Pros

Technology is changing the way location professionals work faster than you can say “the Cloud.” The good news: The countless hours spent looking for a photo lab, pasting photos into folders and rushing them to FedEx after a long day of scouting are gone — and they’ve been replaced by a need for speed. In the past, we were given two full weeks to scout and prep. Now we’re lucky if we can get two days. Location professionals are not only asked to find a needle in a haystack, we’re asked to thread it too. So what are some of the must-haves for today’s locations pros? We queried members of the Location Managers Guild of America (LMGA) for the latest in technology tips, and these are their Top Five: 

The Smart Phone

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Hunting Vampires with Abraham Lincoln and Caleb Deschanel, ASC

 

pro_abrahamlincoln_caleb_df_00494“The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is really a large matter. It’s the difference between the lightning bug and lightning.” – Mark Twain

This prescient observation about writing by the legendary author is also true for stories told with moving images. Audiences innately know whether the images projected on theater screens look and feel right for the times and places in which the stories are happening. Well, they’re in for a thrill with the new action feature Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which transports audiences around 200 years back in time. Produced by Tim Burton Productions and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film stars Benjamin Walker as Lincoln and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his wife Mary. Born in a one-room log cabin on a Kentucky farm in1809, Lincoln overcame formidable obstacles on his path to become a self-educated lawyer. His election as the 16th U.S. President in 1860 was followed by the Civil War in 1861 and the end of slavery, but the movie focuses on a fictional historical twist when Lincoln discovers that vampires are plotting to take over the nation.
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Australia: The Land Down Under Comes Out on Top

 

pre_australiaopeningshotAustralia is quickly gaining momentum in the film and television industry as it attracts a hefty amount of local and international projects. Key cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are fueling productions with varied resources, high-caliber crews, world-class infrastructure, pristine locations and an impressive talent pool that includes some of the industry’s best filmmakers. And, with their signature calm energy and positivity, Aussie crews can handle everything from big-budget international features and local TV series to smaller-budget indie projects (for which they offer affordable solutions). Here’s look at how three major Australian states readily accommodate productions both large and small.
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Postproduction Facilities Embrace the Future

Postproduction facilities understand the importance of establishing a good workflow and utilizing a talented creative team and technical experts. As technical advances steadily evolve, post houses must consistently adapt in order to cater to the needs of each client. And with the cost of digital cameras becoming more affordable with so many options available, content creators can shoot footage with an array of devices in different formats. P3 Update found several post houses that are successfully embracing a changing technical world while nurturing the distinct visions of individual filmmakers.

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Capturing 4K in the Field

At the recent NAB Show 2012, 4K was unquestionably the hottest new thing, at least in terms of field production and acquisition in particular. Several camera makers, such as Canon, JVC, RED Digital and Sony, introduced new 4K cameras and refined versions of previously introduced 4K cameras. For the first time, a few of these 4K cameras were priced under $10K, which is far below the previous benchmarks. These cameras include the RED SCARLET X, Sony FS700 and JVC GY-HMQ10. And while the RED and Sony 4K cameras are priced at nearly $10K, JVC’s is barely half that price. The key underlying question is whether bringing the cost of 4K acquisition within the price range of a much larger cross-section of the production community will trigger a major shift to 4K acquisition across the board, despite the fact that there’s currently a very limited demand for 4K content, even for the cinema.

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Zooming in on the Perfect Lens 


There’s no question about it. Digital technology has dramatically altered the way cinematographers shoot, whether it’s a feature film, TV show, commercial or anything other project. And now that shooting on film is becoming more of an exception than the norm, I wanted to find out how digital technology can affect a DP’s choice of camera lens.


In addition to being the co-founder and president of the Digital Cinema Society, Cinematographer James Mathers has been shooting TV shows and independent films for over 25 years. Having done over 30 features and MOWs, Mathers specializes in shooting “film-style” digital projects and he’s very particular about camera lenses. “An image chain is only as good as its weakest link,” Mathers explains. “It doesn’t make sense to me for people to use lesser quality inexpensive lenses on digital cinema cameras.” The introduction of the RED EPIC camera with its 5K sensor presented a new challenge for Mathers and other DPs. “Because the EPIC’s sensor itself is physically larger than so many other cameras, none of the existing zoom lenses could adequately cover the larger sensor area,” he says. “They were all designed to cover a Super 35mm frame size.” Mathers and a number of other cinematographers lobbied Angenieux to create a new version of its Optimo lens specifically for cameras like the EPIC.

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Editing Action Footage

Editor Stephen Myers, ACE began his career as an assistant to Director Jonathan Demme and has been cutting feature films, documentaries and TV shows for over 25 years. With The River (starring Mel Gibson) as one of his first credits, Myers knows his way around action and suspense films, and his most recent feature, the mockumentary And They’re Off, involves the world of horse racing. Regardless of the genre, when Myers edits a project he works from the premise that each scene tells a small story with a beginning, middle and end. “Any action scene to me is about telling a story and about showing who has the upper hand at any moment and who ends up being the victor at the end of the scene,” explains Myers.

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Hunting Hot Tuna in the Wild with Old and New Cameras

Cinematographer Rick Rosenthal has been filming sea wildlife for several decades and has contributed unique underwater footage to many BBC megaseries, such as “The Blue Planet,” “Planet Earth” and “Life.” The DP has also shot three one-hour specials on great whales and recently directed “Nature: Superfish” for PBS and key international broadcasters. The winner of three cinematography Emmy Awards, Rosenthal is a marine biologist by trade and has been diving for 50 years while his pioneering film work in the open ocean has been seen by millions.

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The Diverse and Cinematic Midwest Region

From its varied locations and talented crews to the irrepressible enthusiasm and hospitality of its local communities, the Midwest Region is a joy for visiting film and television productions. After a year beset with challenges, the states of Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois are springing back into action. P3 Update gets the low-down on how this region is currently handling 2012.

INDIANA

Indiana’s incredible accessibility has been the state’s biggest selling point for filmmakers around the world. With a host of game parks, pristine lakes, sand dunes and cornfields, Indiana offers productions a variety of locale options and the ability to shoot in one of its picturesque cities with a farm setting just a half-hour away. Combine that with sincere Hoosier hospitality and the thrill and excitement of the Indy 500’s car-race extravaganza, and you have the makings for an enjoyable filming experience for everyone.

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Digital Technology Brings New Editing Possibilities

After nearly 20 years of cutting news footage for the Los Angeles independent station KCAL-TV, News Editor Tom Novak has pretty much seen it all, including the changes of the station’s ownership from Disney to Young Broadcasting to current owner CBS (which has maintained the station’s independent status). As one of five editors working on the multiple evening news broadcasts, Novak notes that two of the biggest changes involve the way raw footage is captured and the increasingly rapid turnaround time made possible by digital technology.

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